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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


January 13, 2017  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Jewish community pillar Sonya Miller

Sonya Miller Sonya Miller It is hard to imagine one more connected to the local Jewish community than Sonya Haliczer Miller, 88, of St. Pete Beach, who died on Jan. 2

A native of St. Petersburg, her family helped found Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg and her husband’s family were founding members of Temple Beth- El, also in St. Petersburg.

After she and her husband Irwin Harold Miller married in 1948, they owned and operated the Rellim (Miller spelled backward) Hotel on St. Pete Beach, and even that enterprise is steeped in the history of the Jewish community.

The hotel was built in 1941 by Irwin Miller’s father and for years served as the defacto community center for area Jews. At a time when Jews were often not welcome at country clubs or even at many resorts, it quickly became known as one of the few places that catered to Jews, not just with lodging, but also with social events. Sonya Miller served as social director at the hotel and even edited the Rellium Tellim weekly newspaper for the beach resort. She was a graduate of St. Petersburg High and St. Petersburg Junior College.

Miller loved music and the arts and supported many causes in St. Petersburg in and outside of the Jewish community. She was founder and co-chair for more than 40 years of Art Festival Beth-El, which grew from modest beginnings into a premier art event in the region. She served as Sisterhood president at the temple and her financial contributions benefited the Florida Holocaust Museum, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties and most of the local non-profits dedicated to visual and performing arts, among them FreeFall and American Stage theatre groups and the Florida Orchestra. She served as a board member for the Dali Museum and the Federation and Menorah Manor. In 2014 Miller was honored in an 8 Over 80 ceremony, along with her sister Marilyn Benjamin, for their contributions to the Jewish community.

Last September, she was honored during the International Lion of Judah Conference in Washington, D.C., with the prestigious Kipnis-Wilson Friedland Award. Miller was a Lion of Judah – requiring a minimum $5,000 annual donation to the federation – for 30 years including nearly 20 years as a Ruby Lion, which recognizes a giving level of between $10,000 - $18,000.

Miller was married to Irwin for 62 years until his death in 2010. She is survived by three children, son and daughter-in-law Howard and Nancy Miller, daughter and son-in-law Jan and Craig Sher and son and daughter-in-law Jay and Jan Miller; her sister, Marilyn Benjamin; nine grandchildren and two great granddhildren. The family requests memorials be made to Temple Beth-El or Menorah Manor. (David C. Gross Funeral Homes, St. Petersburg Chapel)

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